Food Allergies or Sensitivities?
Food allergy just sensitivity? This discrepancy is more common than you realize. Many individuals are sensitive to certain foods and avoid them completely rather than realizing they can enjoy these foods in moderation.
A true food allergy happens when you have an anaphylactic reaction and need to be taken to the hospital since you are in danger of dying. Initial reactions could be extreme itching or trouble breathing. If you have true food allergies it is smart to carry an epi pen with you for emergencies.
Food sensitivities or intolerances occur when someone only partially digests a certain food. Symptoms are very broad and can include fatigue, heartburn, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, etc.
What are some common food sensitivities/intolerances and how can you get around them?
- Milk and Milk products – many individuals are sensitive to lactose, the sugar present in milk. Their systems lack the enzyme lactase necessary to digest the lactose. Hard cheeses can be easily tolerated since they are 90% free of lactose. Yogurts are also quite low in lactose and are usually tolerated by those with lactose intolerance. For those who want to enjoy milk they can use Lactaid or the Lactaid equivalent pills or drops to put in their milk to digest the lactose. These products work well for most people and allow them to enjoy dairy if they desire
- Wheat and Wheat products – you commonly hear in Los Angeles “I’m gluten-free.” There is an endless amount of “gluten-free” products available and many individuals think they are allergic to gluten. Those with a true gluten allergy have Celiac disease which is genetically inherited. If someone with Celiac disease consumes gluten it causes the villi or little hair-like projections that move food through the gut to atrophy. Only 1 percent of the population has been diagnosed with Celiac Disease. However, research shows that another 39% of the population may be susceptible to having non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) or gluten intolerance.
- Vegetables – many people interpret gas formed when eating vegetables a food allergy. These individuals may be sensitive to fiber or the enzymes present in these foods such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc. Eating small amounts of these foods are usually well tolerated till your system becomes used to them.
If you feel like you have a true food allergy it may be worth a trip to an allergist who can perform tests. If you have food sensitivities, you may be able to handle various foods you are sensitive to in small quantities, allowing enjoyment of more foods than you realized. The best test is how you feel after eating these foods – are you bloated or easy, prone to a headache or fatigue? Your body’s reaction is the best test for a sensitivy or allergy.
July 23, 2010 @ 9:57 pm
Thanks for the post, the term "food allergy" is bandied around a lot and the difference between a true allergy and a sensitivity is an important one.
I saw you mentioned Lactaid, so I thought I’d mention a new lactase supplement out on the market. The liquid form in particular has been hard to get in the U.S. lately, but a new liquid lactase supplement is out on the market.
There’s an interesting article about gentle, natural lactose intolerance treatment options here.
August 3, 2010 @ 3:07 am
My observation is that there is a whole lot of gray area between a food sensitivity and a substance generating an anaphylactic reaction. My four year old has serious allergic reactions to all foods, (he is on an emlemental tube fed diet) and a large array of other common allergens. The mainstream medical community’s only advice is to measure his eosinophils once again, no treatment except avoidance is available. Outside of the mainstream we found NAET, which was able to significantly reduced his igE RAST scores. To read ore about this consider: http://www.allergyfocus.net/a-different-view-of-allergies/
August 5, 2010 @ 3:17 am
Thanks for the information – very valuable!